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IBM's Big Fat File System

The U.S. Army's M1 Abrams battle tank has gas mileage of about 0.6 miles per gallon. Will Storage Tank -- IBM Corp.'s (NYSE: IBM) code name for the SAN file system five years in the making that's scheduled to ship next month -- get much better mileage? The signs aren't promising.

For starters, the initial version of Storage Tank, formally called IBM TotalStorage SAN File System, will work only with IBM's own storage. That seemingly defeats the entire point of the software, which is to serve large volumes of files from heterogeneous storage. While the company expects to broaden Storage Tank's support for other vendors' storage later in 2004, its ability to front-end only Big Blue storage systems is a decidedly limiting factor out of the gate.

Storage Tank's second shortcoming is that it works only with IBM's AIX operating system and Windows; support for additional operating systems is also planned for sometime next year, according to IBM. [Ed. note: But hey, kudos for getting the version that's shackled to IBM technology out this year!]

The SAN File System, which IBM at one point had promised to deliver in the second quarter of 2001, comes preinstalled on dual Linux-based PCs. IBM has explained that the chronic delays in getting the product finished are because this stuff is (and we're paraphrasing here) really, really hard to do (see IBM Gasses Up Storage Tank, IBM Software Slides to 2003, and IBM Leaks Storage Tank Details).

But despite its ship date having slipped by more than two and a half years, IBM still hasn't delivered on its original vision. IBM says it will ship Storage Tank starting Nov. 14, priced starting at $90,000 for a two-node configuration.

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